Shirley Philbeck Hamrick, who was born December 8, 1925, in Lattimore, North Carolina, died suddenly on the morning of July 18, 2015 in Chapel Hill, having lived more than 89 years. As a faithful wife, devoted mother and grandmother, friend of many, she leaves behind a legacy of love, kindness, and dedication seldom found in a single person.
Shirley’s husband of 71 years, Professor Emmett Willard Hamrick, died on January 8th of this year. She is survived by her son, Dr. Allen Hamrick O’Barr of Chapel Hill, her daughter-in-law Emily O’Barr, two grandchildren, Chelsea (age 9) and Felix (age 6), and many friends and associates.
Her parents, Buena Green and Thomas Philbeck, instilled in their daughter the importance of love and respect for others, education, hard work, and religious faith. These values manifest themselves in her dedication to family, her work with colleagues and students, her interactions with fellow parishioners in several congregations, and to the many, many people she met along her life course.
Shirley studied at both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University, earning a Master’s Degree in Education from the latter during the 1970s. Both she and Professor Hamrick were revered members of the Wake Forest University community. He served as professor and chair of the Department of Religion while she was Associate Director of Admissions where her special focus was on the recruitment and mentoring of young women through their college careers and beyond. In addition to her work on the home campus, she participated in archeological expeditions led to the Middle East by her husband during 13 of their summers at Wake Forest.
Shirley had a special knack for bring people together in social situations whether it was a group of students she and Professor Hamrick entertained in their home, the community of expatriate archaeologists and scholars in Israel or Jordon, potential university students in recruitment sessions she led all over the Southeast, or her family and friends at a birthday party, Christmas dinner, or just an everyday meal. She was as adept at waking up the urge to study in those who might be reluctant to imagine that they too could succeed in the world at large as she was in her kitchen making one of her beloved chocolate cakes (from her mother’s own recipe) or a bowl of hummus (following a recipe she was given in Jerusalem).
Shirley Philbeck Hamrick was both a simple and complex soul. She could be as firm as she was tender. She was as much at home in Western North Carolina as she was in the Middle East. Her love of life and her legacy for living it well inspires the many who mourn her passing and who are enriched by having known her.
A memorial service honoring her life will be held at Binkley Baptist Church on Thursday, July 23rd at 1p.m. A reception will follow. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made to Binkley Baptist Church.